Matching ‘Explorers’ and ‘Guides’ in youth ministry

By Chris Wilterdink, Special Contributor…

Youth culture is always in flux, remixing itself almost as soon as the rest of us notice. How can youth leaders authentically minister with those living in perpetual beta?

To that purpose, Young People’s Ministries at the UMC’s General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) is launching an exciting new online tool, The Field Guide Network (, to connect mentors and practitioners in ministry with youth and young people.

From the time of its beginning, the United Methodist Church has connected ministry leaders to help others overcome local challenges and move into brighter futures.

Adult leaders of youth and young adult ministries across the denomination are creating and employing innovative ways of engaging young people. Young People’s Ministries has hosted events with ministry leaders, where peer-to-peer wisdom sharing has taken place. Young People’s Ministries believes that as United Methodists, we are called to carry out the spiritual discipline of watching over one another in love.

Combining this belief with the value of shared wisdom provided the inspiration to initiate the Field Guide Network.

Ministry is at times isolating, overwhelming, repetitive and confusing. When a youth or young adult leader wants to take her or his ministry to new places, what better way than to find a guide? Historical relationships like those between Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay (the first climbers to reach the summit of Mt. Everest) or Lewis & Clark and Sacagawea (the Lewis & Clark Expedition across the U.S.) highlight the value of journeying to new places with those who have been there before.

Chris Wilterdink

That dynamic, the formation of a short-term partnership with specific goals, is at the heart of the Field Guide Network.

The Field Guide Network is a new tool that addresses those isolating and unfamiliar feelings that ministry leaders face. It’s an online community that will allow youth and young adult ministers to connect with and mentor each other, sharing wisdom to build connection. This wisdom sharing happens primarily through short-term mentoring relationships between “Field Guides” and “Explorers.”

Field Guides serve as the mentors to Explorers in any partnership formed in the network. Field Guides are leaders of youth and young adults who have deep experiential knowledge of particular ministry areas, an active ministry setting where that knowledge is being demonstrated, a record of quality mentoring/relationship skills with peers and co-workers, and have completed an approval process through the Young People’s Ministries office.

Explorers are leaders of youth and young adult ministries who have a specific need within their ministry, and aspire to connect with others to improve their ministry offerings. Anyone can log on to the Field Guide Network website as an Explorer and search through approved and available Field Guides.

At the heart of Young People’s Ministries is the concept of networking. The primary work of the Young People’s Division centers on strengthening and creating connections among young people in the church. The networks created and supported by Young People’s Ministries will span the worldwide connection of the United Methodist Church in local churches, annual conferences and central conferences/jurisdictions.

The General Board of Discipleship helps local church, district and conference leaders fulfill the shared dream of making world-changing disciples. The agency connects leaders with needed resourcing, training, consulting and networking that support spiritual formation, new church development, revitalization of local churches, and materials for use in Central Conferences. Every product, service and ministry of GBOD begins with the mission of equipping world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ.

GBOD is also harnessing its energies and those of its partners and colleagues to address important issues facing the church and the world. And for a world that is clearly in need of transformation, GBOD faithfully provides a wealth of learning opportunities for all areas of discipleship.

 Mr. Wilterdink is director of young people’s ministries for the UMC’s General Board of Discipleship.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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